The Power of Assumptions: Notorious for a Day

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I strongly believe the following:

The most dangerous weapon we carry around with us in the world are not atomic bombs and rifles. It’s ‘assumptions’.

One recent example of assumptions carried to the absolute extreme inspired this post. But before I get into that, let me help put things into context.

Living versus Visiting

While still living in Jamaica, I made friends with a man in his 30s who held citizenship in both America and Jamaica.

The child of two Jamaicans, he was born and raised in America, but had come to idolise the tiny island after visiting often throughout his childhood, and even more often as an adult.

He had big dreams of running a family business and achieving success much more easily than he could back home. He had it all planned out. He would go to the beach every weekend to relax, start searching for his Jamaican Queen, and settle down with her and their biracial babies until the end of his days.

“You’re crazy,” I told him, when I found out where he was from. “Why would you leave America and come here?”

He spoke of all the opportunities in Jamaica, and of how much he had enjoyed prior vacations and knew it was time he moved and stayed long-term.

“Jamaica is a much different place to live in than it is to visit,” I warned him.

Certain that his own experience was more to the fact, he scoffed and chastised me for my own desire to leave.

To Europe, Maybe?

At the time, I wasn’t quite sure where I meant to go, but I was entertaining several options. I had two opportunities to head for Germany, one for England, and another for Australia. And at the time, Germany was beginning to look like a sure-winner.

But I was terrified (I admit it!) of being so far away from anything familiar. I didn’t like the idea of trusting people I knew very little to see to my well-being until I became settled, and I couldn’t make up my mind.

So, I decided to make my customary summer trip to the U.S. to think and plot. A few months after arriving, it became apparent that Europe was a lost dream, and I was better off staying where I was closer to family and friends.

“I can’t believe you aren’t coming back,” the Jamaican told me, and then we didn’t speak for some time.

A few months later, I checked in to see how he was doing. “I’m going back home,” he admitted. “You were right. It wasn’t at all what I expected. My flight leaves tomorrow.” I haven’t heard from him since.

In Jamaica, we have a saying for this, though we usually apply it to living with people we think we know, as opposed to living in places we think we know. It goes a little something like this:

See me and live with me. Two different things.

My Own Lesson

Amused by his own underestimation of what he was up against, I was oblivious to my own taste of the same lesson.

Prior to moving to the U.S., I had been coming here for sixteen years. I started off with Florida at nine years old, and hated it. After that, I spent my summers and Christmases in New York and Maryland.

In fact, my parents even started the process for me to begin school in Baltimore — and then Columbine happened. My mom promptly sent me home on the first flight she could find.

In my mid-teens, Mom then moved to Georgia, and thereafter I spent every chance I got in Atlanta — up to five months each year. So when it dawned on me that Wow, I’m actually staying in America, I also figured I got this.

But I soon learned I did not ‘got’ this. Just as I had warned my now estranged friend about Jamaica, not even spending a good third of my life in America for sixteen years prepared me for the reality of actually living here.

You get so much more caught up in the drama of the country you’re in, when you have a vested interest in seeing it do well, and you’re not just passing through and heading back home. And for me, I ended up here at a time when LGBT rights, feminism, and Black rights are at its strongest.

Philando Castile

Thus, when Philando Castile got shot, I knew I would be dragged into this conversation whether I wanted it or not. I got a few messages from friends who know I’m infamous for tackling controversy, asking if I had seen the video. Yes, I had seen it.

Then, it was all over my Facebook feed. While I certainly believed there was much to be said regarding the incident, there was just so much hatred and fire running a muck on my timeline against ‘whiteness’ and ‘White establishment’ and ‘White cops’ etc etc .

I am all for speaking out and fighting for rights. My blog attests to that much. But I am not at all for hate, on any side. It doesn’t solve anything. Thus, I escaped Facebook to see what was happening on Twitter.

Here Comes the Bandwagon

While scrolling through my own feed, I noticed a recurring theme. As I am Jamaican, I follow a lot of other Jamaicans, and several were giving their most “expert” advice on what African-Americans should do to not get shot by the police.

Some also proceeded to share ‘statistics’ that only Black people were being killed by the police. And that if White people never got killed, then this was most definitely a race war.

That got a raised eyebrow from me, as those of you who may have read my article on Jesse Williams’ speech and the Justin Timberlake aftermath, or did any kind of objective research on your own, would know that this is not true.

Blacks are disproportionately the victims of police brutality compared to their size in the population. But they aren’t the only victims — far from it. Yet if you look to the media for the truth around the world, it’s hard to believe they aren’t. No one else ever seems to make the news.

I then watched Jamaicans who don’t even live in America, hassle other Americans about what they need to do to fix this growing problem of police brutality, as if we don’t have police brutality in Jamaica too that we aren’t fixing. Ours is just not racially motivated.

My Big Mouth

Annoyed, and probably too opinionated for my own good, I tweeted:

I then set the phone down and started working my way through emails and an article for a client. Bored halfway through the article, I checked to see what might be a-stirring on Twitter. To my surprise, my Twitter mentions were through the roof.

As is customary of Twitter, people didn’t check to see what was said beyond the first tweet, or considered any context it might have been said in. Instead, they went full speed ahead, while carrying the following hilarious assumptions that:

  1. I must be American.
  2. That I was “amused” because Jamaicans should not sympathise with others.

Out of the hundreds of tweets I received from several different accounts, only one bothered to ask for clarification – sort of.

And one actually did the clarifying for me. For a time, it seemed that he alone got the point. Of the other three who finally figured it out, they rolled in with guns blazing, and then backtracked once they realised what was actually said.

On the one hand, it’s impressive to see so many from around the world mobilise together for a good cause. But on the other hand, the fact that we are so quick to roast each other without stepping back to examine the situation, makes me wonder:

Where is today’s civil rights movement headed, when people’s favourite weapon against hate is more hate?

Am I the only one just mind-blown by this?

Check out other favourite picks from my Twitter mentions below.

https://twitter.com/_chxrlene/status/751142296708669441

Arming People with Assumptions

The most dangerous weapon we wield in life, and often to our own detriment is our own assumptions. Ask questions. Think it through. Be objective. Things are not always what they seem, and certainly not always what we think they mean.

Had anyone even bothered to make it to the second tweet:

or miraculously the third:

…we could have had a much different conversation. But, welcome to 2016 on social media.

Still, I can’t complain. My Twitter engagement was ten times higher today, and my blog got more traffic than usual from Twitter. So… look how that turned out. #NoRegrets

Update 01.21.2018: Roughly a third of the tweets originally shared in this article have since been retracted by the users who posted them. Foot in mouth syndrome, perhaps? 🤔

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41 thoughts on “The Power of Assumptions: Notorious for a Day

  1. As a black American mother of three black American teenage boys, I am proactive in training them how to stay alive and avoid situations in which they might be subject to brutality from police or any other other source.

    I promote an unpopular solution to injustice, violence and racism in a peaceful way, and I don’t jump on the bandwagons of highly emotional, provoked reactions to every incident that is publicized. That would make me feel like a puppet being manipulated by various media.

    Berating and disrespecting others who are also concerned about the evil and disparity around us only contributes to the problem and general mayhem. In the book 1984, war and propoganda proliferate on both sides just to keep the hate-based economy and political agenda going. Is that how we want the real world to end up?

    It’s hard to stay balanced and rational when you care about your children, the local and global communities, and the future of the human race, but it’s absolutely necessary in order for any type of progress to be made.

    1. I couldn’t have said it better myself, and that was exactly the mindset that led to my initial tweets. There was so much hate and emotions running high online. No one was stopping to think, or to be rationale. It was getting scary.

      And then people outside of the country were unknowingly spreading lies about what was really going on, as thought it were undisputed fact.

      You are right, the media does distort things horribly in America, bad as it already is. They want to sell sensational stories. That’s what they do.

      All of America is a big reality TV show at this point.

      One of my followers commented that having to teach our minorities how not to get shot, is as shameful as having to teach our women how not get raped. We’re placing the onus on them to get it right rather than offenders, but that’s the real world. She is so right but better safe than sorry…

      I hope your sons stay safe! All the best and thanks so much for commenting!

  2. Assumptions indeed are a very dangerous thing. I like that you point that out here. It is unfortunate the current state of affairs around the world, but presently, here in the States I am hurt to even watch the news because it always hate filled and full of unjust deaths, shootings, etc. “on all sides” of the issue.

    I quote all sides because honestly I wish people would realize that is a divisive as anything. Yes, there are clearly different sides of the issue, I’m not blind to that but typically when people look at the different sides they use that as Black Vs. White or Cop Vs. Black when honestly I think people should realize we are all just people living on this earth.

    The color of our skin, is such a stupid and silly thing to use against someone in hate, or as a weapon for victimizing ones self. I hope no one reading this takes this wrong. I am not saying souls of any color have never or are never wrongfully victims in any of the current or even past situations.

    It is an unfortunate reality and one I hope we can finally get past and change some day. That being we as a whole should realize we are all people. Your color, should not matter in this. Just as you are entitled to your beliefs, however those beliefs should not be used to perpetuate hate against someone who does not share you view or your beliefs.

    The sooner we in America and others around the world realize we are all people, we all are at times just trying to survive, in the insanity that is this world, the sooner cooler heads may prevail. We live in a society (def in social media I.E. Twitter) that loves to make assumptions and attack anyone at the slightest sense of not sharing a belief or because we believe we know what they are saying or thinking, or who they are based on a 140 character word count in twitters case, but even an article etc.

    I would also say, the media does not help things. They take these things and quickly fan the flames for their stories, anything to stay relevant, to get those hits to their websites, to keep people watching their news, or reading their online news sites. It is often as though they look to fuel a storyline so there is that much more anger and who knows, maybe they get another story.

    I am not being a conspiracy theorist, and I’m certainly not saying the news outlets have bloodlust and love watching people do horrid things like the recent events so they can get news coverage, I am however stating it is fact, they do often add fuel to the fire intentionally or unintentionally to the issues.

    I will stop here. I should end on a positive note and let you know I found this a very interesting read. You do an excellent job of representing your point of view on things and you make a very valid point about assumption. We live in a society of assumptions however and it is dangerous.

    We are all souls making our way through life. The diversity we share through color of skin, difference of viewpoints, etc. should be a point of celebration. It should not be fuel for more hate.

    My heart goes out to the victims of any and all of these all to frequent tragedies.

    Cheers! ^_^

    1. Thank you Sinister! I’m glad you took the time to read this and that it resonated with you enough to leave a comment, and such a good one. I’m always so excited to hear from readers.

      You aren’t a conspiracy theorist. I do write and work in public relations and marketing, and can tell you that news and media companies do deliberately fan flames to sell sensational stories. It goes beyond one story though. It follows causes like the Black Lives Matter movement and sometimes distorts facts.

      While race and ethnicity should not be used against people, it is. And the Dallas Shooting almost seems ready to set a race war off now for real. I hope it doesn’t get to that.

      It is indeed a divisive issue. I wrote another article about that very thing here. Not sure if you already saw it. https://alexischateau.com/2016/02/13/why-beyonces-super-bowl-50-performance-solves-nothing/

      Thanks again for dropping by!

      1. I haven’t read the article you linked but I will be sure to. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment back on my comment. Yeah, I usually read the news now and even then I do so trying to keep an open mind. It just seems they spin things like mad.

        I suppose it is a business but these are people’s lives. I’ll check out that article in the near future.

        Cheers! ^_^

      2. Thank you. Can’t wait to see your thoughts on that one.

        And you’re welcome. I see comments as part of a larger discussion. I do take the time to reply to every last one. 🙂

        The media doesn’t care about people’s lives anymore. Only when it boosts clicks and traffic.

        Thanks again!

      3. So I sit here eating a plate of nachos (I know real healthy) reading the article linked and thinking finally a soul out there gets it! I do wish more people who feel oppressed (and are oppressed) would step forward with solutions. I get tired of people blaming each other for the sins of generations past.

        You can add to that the fact many don’t look for a solution past that. People simply blame current generations for previous generations sins, and then that’s it. Blame, no resolution or solution. Riots are not a solution and quite often the people rioting are people taking advantage of a situation and not people actually fighting for anyone’s rights.

        I will add in all cases though there is an equal problem on all “sides” of people lacking the ability to listen. Hear our one another, work together, and find a solution. There can only be peace when both sides are willing to hear one another out, and work together to find that peaceful understanding and resolution.

        I don’t think people need to go around mudslinging one another over race, religious beliefs, sexual preference both as person and in who someone is into. People should be looking for a resolution, a peaceful one at that. I am always shocked how completely silly some of the hatreds people have for one another are, and disgusted by how that hatred consumes them and leads quite often to violence.

        Who cares if someone was born with a different pigmentation to their skin. What does it matter if someone likes guys, girls, both, or wants to be any and all of the above? What effect does that have on us? I will stop there. Peace, love, and prayers for the world. Cheers! ^_^

      4. Well, I say the same for you: another soul gets it. Haha. Yes, I don’t quite understand it. I know sometimes taking a strong opposition against something is necessary, but I don’t think this is the way to go about it.

        We can’t stereotype all Whites and all cops or all White cops and then ask them not to racially profile us when they pull us over. How is what we do any different? The only actual difference is that officers of the law are usually in a place to enforce their bias, or investigate based on it.

        We’re throwing tit for tat and one of those tats will be the last straw for someone. With these police killings… maybe it already is.

  3. Those who are quick to be rude, mean, or downright cruel to someone else on the internet are who I call “Internet thugs”. So many people feel protected with a screen and a keyboard protecting them from others. I can guarantee that the majority of those nasty replies you received, wouldn’t even be uttered if you all had been standing physically in a group together.

    One of the things I determined for myself to strive for when mucking about online, is to try to never say anything that I would not be willing to say to someone’s face. I am mostly successful at it, though we’re all human and sometimes get sucked into a pitfall I suppose.

    Then again, my involvement in social media is limited to the more frivolous: Snapchat, Instagram, a random post about nothing in general on Facebook – and that about sums it up.

    The communication mediums that we have today are a gift and a curse. Having immediate communication of happenings across the globe can be essential – but the largest issue it causes is that it does not promote the act of stopping to think before you react. In the past, when the news of some tragedy even in your own state, didn’t reach you until the evening news – you had time to ponder, and think things through until you went to work the next day and it was the “water cooler topic of the day”.

    Today, a tragedy happens and you see it online often while it’s still in progress, and with a multitude of outlets at your fingertips you’re able to shout out to the world your immediate, often illogical, gut instinct reaction to things – which can be an issue, especially combined with the perceived protection of anonymity.

    How much different would our society be today, in the topics of acceptance, tolerance, assumptions, hate, love, etc. If we did not have this instant communication? Would we be better, worse, the same?

    1. This sounds like an idea you should flesh into a blog post. And I do agree. As one other commenter said, people no longer do due diligence either. They just take things at face value without fact checking anything.

      They were all trolls and they certainly would not have said it to my face in person. People do feel protected behind a screen without a keyboard as their weapon.

      As an activist, and a highly opinionated woman, social media is often used for social commentary for me. Ironically, I gained quite a few followers that day, in spite of everyone losing their heads.

      I don’t think it’s the tool of instant communication that makes it a problem in today’s society though. I think it’s the people behind it. We’ve become a selfish know-it-all culture with no respect for anyone and anything else but ourselves and our own interests.

  4. The post you wrote about Jesse Williams I didn’t necessarily agree with everything but, I also did not comment because your opinion is your opinion. I find that one of the hardest things to accept when being a strong mind individual is accepting others opinions after you feel as though you’ve laid facts that were good enough to eat. I have also realized the idea of smart people in this world and the reality of smart people in this world is two different things. Well done lady.

    1. I know a lot of people did not agree with the Jesse Williams post, because most people took his words as is. I don’t think I saw anyone else before myself questioning anything he said.

      That being said, disagreeing would have been fine. An opinion is, after all, just an opinion. 🙂 I encourage honest and open discussions in the comments.

      I’ve learned to live by “to each their own”, especially where African American culture is concerned. I am, after all, the outsider.

      Thanks for the compliments and for dropping by!

  5. I think you handled it very well! 140 characters, ironically, creates a huge space for misunderstandings. It’s a pity that people don’t bother to research further before jumping to conclusions, but I think one contributing factor is our time-starved world. It’s a real shame when people get too busy to properly educate themselves. Maybe I’m giving them too much credit, though =P

    1. Thank you! I tried not to let them suck me into that trash. I spoke to the reasonable people, ignored the ignorant ones, and blocked the super threatening ones.

      But you are right, people don’t care to fact-check or investigate anything for themselves anymore.

      We’ve become a set who takes everything at face value, and don’t care much for context.

  6. People always jump down folks throats on Twitter. I’ve been on the receiving end of some ignorant tweets. It’s comical to me because I just ignore the nonsense. The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shook me once again as have the deaths of all the others on the dreaded list.

    1. Thanks Catherine, and yes, that’s Twitter for you. I suppose we have all been trolls at some time or other, but these folks made a career out of it.

      Have you heard of the Piedmont Park hanging in Georgia that’s also stirring up trouble? People think it was a lynching and not suicide.

      1. Yes I heard of the Piedmont Park hanging. I’m skeptical, but I also take into account that emotions are very high right now and all the details aren’t in in that situation.

      2. Same here. People have tried to convince me with their conspiracy theories, but I’m going by what the evidence says until there’s more evidence. And right now existence says no sign of foulplay.

    1. Nah, they didn’t. They didn’t make it past the first tweet.

      One who did asked me why I didn’t make it more clear from the first tweet I posted. I asked her just how she proposed I do that in chunks of 140 characters?

      She hasn’t responded.

  7. People are all emotional right now & just looking for any reason to jump down someone’s throat.
    Your incident aside, these two tragedies really have me upset & scared for those I love. Fed up & exhausted & don’t even begin to know where the solution starts when we can’t even have a discussion.
    It’s frustrating & heartbreaking. 🙁

    1. I know. Right now there’s also the hanging in Georgia that people refuse to accept as suicide, based on no other evidence than that 2 black men were recently killed so this must be the KKK. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but why must we always assume the worst?

      I’m getting pretty fed-up myself. We can’t expect peace if we can’t even have peaceful discussions.

      There is just so much division in America right now, and it’s multiplying, while adding nothing to our freedoms, and subtracting everything from our shared sense of community.

      It’s really getting out of hand. Why can’t we all just get along??

      1. It’s about wrong vs right, basic good vs evil, but some fail to see that. I’m not sure if it’s because they’ve become numb or always were.

      2. Well violence on TV in movies and the news and even on the internet has certainly desensitised us. We seem to only care now when it’s more of a personal threat or a popular topic.

        But I hope once emotions settle, we’ll get it right. I guess I have to say we now, since American or not, I’m here and a part of my “fate” is tied to how things progress.

      3. I can only hope we move forward with positive change, but I also don’t see things going in a good direction. It’s complicated. However, I have seen groups on here do mobilize & do positive things here in the blogosphere. Anything is possible if we can stop fighting each other. <3

  8. Exactly why I got off of Twitter about 6 months ago…too much stupidity and ignorance amongst the responses to intelligent tweets, and too much hostility that these people would never say to if they were face to face.

    I was reading your blog and all I could think of were all the people who have “advice” for women on “how not to get raped” instead of dealing with the men doing the raping.

    1. I can totally understand that. I got off Twitter years ago too. I only forced myself to get back into it because of work. Clients kept asking for my social media pages and checked to see if they were active.

      Ah, that article on how not get raped. How I was begged not to write it. But I had faith my followers would see the tongue-in-cheek motive and you all did. I didn’t get one negative comment on that article anywhere.

      Thanks again for dropping by and sharing your opinion. Honest opinions are always welcome here!

      1. The whole part you mentioned about people giving advice on how to “not get murdered” that can be interpreted as “here’s why it’s your fault if it happens to you”…kind of like how when women are raped, the first thing people ask is “what was she wearing?”

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